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Pallone Floor Remarks in Opposition to Republican Repeal of Health Care Worker Vaccine Requirement

Jan 31, 2023
Press Release
"More than 50 health care organizations representing doctors, nurses, and hospitals agree that requiring COVID-19 vaccination of health care workers saves lives and improves health outcomes."

Energy and Commerce Committee Ranking Member Frank Pallone, Jr.'s (D-NJ) remarks, as prepared for delivery, on the House floor in opposition to H.R. 497, Freedom for Health Care Workers Act:

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I yield myself such time as I may consume. 

I rise today in strong opposition to H.R. 497, a reckless bill brought to the House floor that endangers the health and well-being of Americans. With this legislation, House Republicans are putting politics over science. The legislation would eliminate the COVID-19 vaccine requirement for health care workers. It ignores the fact that vaccination of health care workers saves lives and protects the most vulnerable. The bill has had no hearings, no markups, and no opportunity to examine its impacts on our health care system. 

If Republicans had taken the time to solicit input on this bill, they would have heard from health care leaders that H.R. 497 will jeopardize the health and safety of providers, patients, and their families.  

COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective, and have been essential to saving lives, rebuilding our economy, and protecting the health of our communities. More than 668 million COVID-19 vaccine doses have been administered here in the United States, which has resulted in 120 million fewer COVID-19 infections, 18.5 million fewer hospitalizations, and 3.2 million lives saved. 

These vaccines are especially vital to protecting the most vulnerable in our communities, including seniors, people with disabilities, and people living in nursing homes. The public health data clearly shows that increased vaccination in nursing homes has prevented additional hospitalizations and saved lives. New deaths among nursing home residents decreased by 83 percent once vaccination efforts began.  

We also know that vaccination of health care providers has protected our health care workforce and saved lives by ensuring that patients can receive safe and essential timely care. Prior to the availability of COVID-19 vaccines, health care providers were at higher risk of becoming infected with COVID-19, endangering themselves and their families while leaving patients without access to care when they needed it most. That is why more than 50 health care organizations representing doctors, nurses, and hospitals agree that requiring COVID-19 vaccination of health care workers saves lives and improves health outcomes. 

Mr. Speaker, vaccine mandates are also not new – health care workers are often required to receive vaccinations for a variety of infectious diseases. Many states have requirements that health care workers be vaccinated against communicable diseases like Hepatitis, flu, and Measles, Mumps or Rubella. Why wouldn’t we want the same requirements to prevent the continued spread of COVID-19, especially among our most vulnerable?

The vaccine requirement is also not negatively impacting the health care profession. The health care workforce has grown since the vaccine requirement, with more health care providers and staff employed in December 2022 than prior to when the COVID-19 vaccine requirement went into effect.  

I was disappointed yesterday by my experience in the Rules Committee, where some of my Republican colleagues chose to ignore the broad based scientific and medical consensus that the COVID-19 vaccine is safe and effective at reducing deaths and hospitalizations. Instead, some of my Republican colleagues chose to spend their time entertaining fringe theories about vaccine side effects and propagating vaccine myths, despite the fact that millions of Americans have received the COVID vaccine safely and with no effect on their health. It is truly disappointing that this is what we have come to in the United States Congress.

This legislation is also a distraction from Republicans’ true agenda on health care, which they are continuing to work on behind closed doors, and that is to cut health care and retirement for millions of Americans. Republicans have repeatedly pledged that they will refuse to raise the debt limit unless they can cut Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and other vital programs. They are so determined to cut Americans’ health care that they are willing to recklessly risk defaulting on the national debt and wreaking havoc on the economy in order to do so.  

If successful, their actions will result in millions of Americans losing benefits and lifesaving protections, including seniors, children with complex medical needs, people with disabilities, and pregnant and postpartum women. That is unconscionable, and I want to underscore that Democrats will not fall for this manufactured crisis and we will not under any circumstances agree to cut these vital programs.

Instead of playing reckless partisan games, Democrats are committed to putting families first. We will continue to follow the science to fight COVID-19. We will build on the success of the most productive Democratic Congress in modern history, and fight to ensure that Americans have access to affordable and quality health care, further lower health care and prescription drug costs, and support our health care workforce. 

This legislation is dangerous and I strongly urge my colleagues to strongly oppose it. And with that, I reserve the balance of my time.